What Conservatism Really Means - Roger Scruton in Conversation with Hamza Yusuf

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Event Name: What Conservatism Really Means - Roger Scruton in Conversation with Hamza Yusuf
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 3/29/2019 8:41:10 PM
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eight: normal'>they they had a lot of leftist politics

certainly their

was tend to be collectivist and and and

they were National Socialists as opposed

to being internationalist but when they

when they get into power they they tend

to really really tear things down and

don't give us yeah well I I think

there's an explanation of this it's um

what Hegel calls the labor of the

negative right that the initial instinct

on the left is that negative instinct

things are wrong and it must they must

be rectified

they can only be rectified however by

the seizure of power and so we're going

to seize power in order to rectify them

but once you've got the power the

negative is still there in your heart

because that it's driven you all along

you know that's the thing that has

inspired you so you set about destroying

things at punishing people you Indic you

find classes who are to blame you know

the Jews the bourgeoisie wherever it

might be and you don't get out of that

negative structure and I feel that's

what I felt very strongly in 1968 you

know that okay of course there are

things that are wrong in France but

there are also things that are beautiful

them right and you've got to go through

this and come back and rescue those

things which is much more important than

destroying a few obstacles along the way


Blake has a interesting the he says the

hand of vengeance found the bed to which

the purple tyrant fled the iron hand

crushed the head and came a tyrant in

its stead and that tends to be a pattern

that we see again and again that when if

you have for instance in Iran's a good

example of that I mean Civ aquas was one

of the major reasons for the revolution

itself because the heavy handedness of

the Shah is his secret police which he

probably had no idea they very often

live in these silos and bubbles yeah but

they've got you know the secret police

the apparatus all comes back yeah and

and the disappearing the people that

disappear all disappear again so I mean

this is

part of the problem but again it's still

this fundamental problem for instance I

mean one of the things that that you

talked about in in fool's frauds and

firebrands is is the idea of power being

the way in which everything is

articulated that the critique is about

power I mean Foucault is a good example

of that of somebody who just saw

everything in terms of power but there's

there's definitely truth embodied in

that and I think that's why it's so

seductive for so many people

I mean we have to deal with with the

fact that so many people are seduced by

this because they experience especially

marginalized and disenfranchised people

yes that is true

but of course in the intellectual world

it's extremely corrupting to see things

in this Foucauldian way you know you

instead of asking the question is what

her hands are saying true I ask the

question you know what power is

advancing behind that you know you then

disappear from the picture right and

also what you've said disappears from

the picture yeah I'm not no longer

engaging with you I - thou at all right

because without the concept of truth

there is no real engagement between

people all I am seeing is the power

that's speaking through you and that of

course you can look at the whole of

culture in that way which is essentially

what the postmodern curriculum is taking

one writer one philosopher one musician

after another and just talking about you

know Susan McCleary on Beethoven that

this is fantasies of rape speaking

through this music you know it's

extremely boring after works is totally

panicking it lands I mean things I say

about critical theorists you know that

if it was a lens that it might be useful

sometimes to just peer through that lens

but but it's a corneal transplant you

know and a big metaphor yeah it becomes

the only way yeah and I've seen one of

the things that I've seen with students

in my own teaching experience is you

know I've had critical theorists in my

classes and whenever they raise their

hand I

could almost verbatim tell them what

they're going to say the response that

they're going to give to whatever was

said yes and and well then we need to

understand why it is so seductive that's

my point

it troubles me how seductive it's been

and it also I grapple in my own self

with the amount of genuine injustice in

the world you know that takes place on a

daily basis and I mean for instance you

know their attacks on capitalism to me

the corporate world today is so powerful

and to use a favorite term in that in

that world is hegemonic you know this

idea where monoculture becomes becomes

so imperious and we've seen so many I

mean I'll give you an example when I was

young one of the treats in my supposed

to go to a bookstore bookstores have

pretty much been wiped out in the United

States because of these corporations so

small bookstores are not able to survive

so now you have you you had borders but

then borders goes bankrupt mmm and and

then now we've got we're left with

Barnes and Noble and and and so if you

go in who's picking those books who's

actually choosing what books like if you

go for instance to to the teen section

it's almost all about vampires and

really weird occult and stuff it's not

like you know the Hardy Boys or Nancy

Drew mysteries it's it's very corrosive

ideas we slightly changed the topic now

we're not really talking about this

postmodern obsession with power right we

are we're talking about well changing

the structure of life right and but for

me a lot of I mean I'll give you an


Herbert Marku say who I'm not a fan of

button by any stretch but when when I

read some of his works I was struck by

real insights about things that were

very troubling about American culture

one dimensional man

this idea of a consumer and and life as

consumption and and and losing me I mean

his solutions is a whole other problem

but and this is something I think that's

very seductive is that the the critical

aspect of of Marxism and neo Marxism has

always been it's always had a resonance

in a lot of people there's something

very very powerful about it when you

when you get to solutions and how we

deal with these things we're in another

realm but if if I think if conservatives

don't really address the the real

serious critiques that are there you

know about the status quo yeah I think

you're right they have they have perhaps

neglected those critiques but you know

as I saying earlier the purely negative

approach to the status quo is simply

going to perpetuate this negativity and

has done if you're not the typical

conservative in my reading of events is

someone who looks around himself and he

finds things that he loves you know

anything's when those things are

threatened they're vulnerable I've got

to protect right and it's not often that

you find on the left somebody who looks

around and finds things that he loves

it's um it's always something that's

gone wrong something that is even

hateful and you've got to mobilize

against it if you've lost any sense that

actually the world is lovable and that

there are things there for to be rescued

in it you have actually lost the sense

of why there is such a thing as a

community in the first place and that I

think is one of the things that I felt

very strongly throughout my life that

that there really are wonderful things

that we've inherited all Americans

however whatever position in society

they are are still heirs to something

rather remarkable you know a rule of law

which has goes on perpetuating itself

from generation to generation if they if

only people knew how rare that was they

would see that they've got a fight to

preserve it you know

and the same with so many other

institutions that we yeah no I couldn't

agree with you more I think one of the

most one of the most interesting things

and Gwen we were talking about Gwyn

earlier the grammarian one of the things

that Gwyn points out and it really

struck me in his little book on grammar

that made quite a splash I think in the

UK one of the things that he points out

is that language our English language

has not changed a great deal I mean the

conservation of the language this site

could be because there's a lot of people

that the the descriptivists will just

say that language is whatever people use

but there is a reason to hold on and to

preserve language because if we allow

language to dissipate into private

languages we lose the ability to

communicate as a culture or a

civilization that is all true but also

equally true is a fact that languages we

inherited is not the product of a single

person or it's the evolved gift of

generations and and it contained in

every word there is a kind of history of

the human condition

we're actually inheriting wisdom with it

with language these words make

distinctions that we couldn't have ever

made ourselves right without their aid

and so but we are living entering a

world where grammar is not given the

importance of it that it deserves one of

the things and and talk for me I mean

conserving language is extremely

important and and it was an obsession of

Muslims the idea the Quran in essence

almost froze the Arabic language in a in

a in a period so the the ideal of Arabic

will always be the Quran and and in some

ways the the King James Bible did that

to English to a certain degree yes it

did or interestingly of course the King

James Bible isn't unashamedly a

translation you know and the Quran as

and is what I mean most Muslims don't

accept that it can be exactly translated

because it has a it has a perfection of

its own I course it was recited when you

know more about this three is recited

long before it is written down right and

and then it had achieved a kind of

statuesque quality that that our Bible

has never has never managed but you know

grammar the grammar of the King James

Bible is often quite unorthodox and and

it it's a very strange book and we now

look is the book that made our

seventeenth and eighteenth century

literature arguably it's it's the book

also that made some of the greatest

orators and

in our civilization yes I mean Lincoln

Lincoln's Lincoln's reliance and

dependence on on the King James Bible

was immense but hardly any Church now

uses it my Church the Anglican Church

does use it but only in certain little

places and in villages or in hi Sara

monile occasions I mean most of it for

the most part is the new English Bible

that has replaced it there you went to

grammar schools and and and and they've

been largely the attack on grammar

schools has been amazing because it's

been seen as an elitist enterprise and

one of the things that's that struck me

I read a book by David Mulroy called the

Warwick against grammar it was quite an

eye-opening book for me because one of

the things that in teaching our students

Arabic it's very difficult because many

of them have very little English grammar

yeah and and traditionally grammar

grammatical languages I mean all all

languages are grammatical but by that I

mean a language that is almost

impossible to understand without

knowledge of grammar like Arabic because

it's inflected and because it the verbs

are conjugated and so if you don't have

some understanding of that it becomes

very difficult but david moore roy makes

this argument that in the 1960s early

60s in the u.s. there was actually a

movement to stop teaching grammar and

they saw it as very abusive to children

and but but what's interesting he has

he has something that I've replicated in

several classes I on average I'll take

50 students I give him the opening

sentence to the Declaration of

Independence when in the course of human

events it becomes necessary to the end

of that sentence it's it's it's a

sentence that has several subordinate

clauses and I all I ask the students is

identify the main point of this sentence

now these are college students on

average out of 50 students I'll get two

or three that actually can identify the

main clause and and so there's a type of

higher illiteracy that that the fact

that grammar has been removed and I

think a restoration of language is the

only thing for me the the salvation of

the civilization has to be predicated on

the resurrection of the corruption of

this language well I think you've

actually touched on what the real

essence of conservatism is there you

know that that there are things that the

conservation of which is actually

fundamental to understanding the world

as it is and if you lose those things

like the rules of grammar the habits of

good speech or good manners the sense of

what a legal solution

as opposed to a mere bullying solution

to a conflict might be all those things

we we used to be taught to us as part of

becoming an adult if you lose those

things you're at sea in the world and I

think that's one of the things that that

most worries me about modern education

you refer to the this movement in our

schools to abolish grammar as elitist

it's absolutely true that a grammar is

elitist because it makes a distinction

between the people who know it and the

people who don't and that's the kind of

distinction that we all need if we're to

survive not only as a civilization but

as individuals too so this is where are

the real arguments for conservatism in

my view should be based not in their

economic sphere at all but in these

fundamental cultural inheritances and

yeah I couldn't agree with you more

and I think it's very one of the things

that really troubles me we had recently

a professor I think down in Southern

California at a major university who was

considered racist because he was

demanding that the students use proper

grammar and so the minority students

objected to that because they felt that

it was discriminatory and and and one of

the things about in our culture and I